Elusive things, trains ! Ah well, the only
thing to be done was to catch the next one, and make the best of my
own company, since the party I should have joined was already miles
So I journeyed alone, and walked alone,
through dry brushwood and patches of radiant flowers. When I judged,
by certain infallible signs, that lunchtime was come, I sought the
nearest gully, and, after clambering over many boulders, found
Water it undoubtedly was, since tadpoles were
swimming about in it. In fact, looking more closely at it, I felt
that here was a sample of the oft-quoted "first water." It was like
a little puddle left over from the Flood, complete with a
representative gathering of Noah's wogs. Blessed be the cleansing
power of fire, I thought, as I kindled some twigs and slung the
billy between two handy boulders. It boiled rapidly, and I was soon
sipping tea and munching grilled bacon sandwiches.
It was warm in that rocky defile. I took off
shoes and heavy woollen socks and spread them to air while I smoked
a leisurely cigarette.
Out of the tail of my eye I caught a flicker
of movement. Snake? I wondered, and sat breathless. Another
movement, and I saw a small curved arm and delicate fingers. Ah! A
lizard. All was well.
My visitor advanced warily. His clear, alert
eyes watched the smoking mountain that was I, much as a human might
gaze at a volcano liable to erupt at any moment.
Reassured by my stillness, he moved forward
again, stealthily, placing one small hand after another on the rock.
His quick head turned towards me once more; then he decided that I
was only part of the scenery, and went with the most barefaced
curiosity to examine my footgear. He crawled over a shoe, paused in
thought, and returned whence he had come, round the corner of a
I thought he had lost interest in my
belongings, but no. In a twinkling he was back, bringing his wife
with him. Together they made a minute inspection of my entire
outfit—crawled up and down the socks, darted a tongue into the paper
which had held the bacon, ran over my pack and had a look in the
I watched the queer little creatures with
their grey, knobbly skins, so exactly the colour of lichened rocks,
and thought what an upstart I was in these surroundings. My pool of
"first water"; these ancient rocks; these equally ancient-looking
animals—surely they were here unchanged jsince the beginning of
time, and would be here unchanged long after i was dust.